NY Lawmakers Hope to Pass 9/11 Bill During Lame Duck

CBS 2 - December 20, 2010

NEW YORK (CBS 2) - The Senate is expected to begin debating the 9/11 health bill once more this week, the last week of the session, but as Kathryn Brown reports, New York lawmakers said this time they think they'll succeed.

"We believe we've secured enough Republican votes to prevail," Senator Chuck Schumer said.

"America will be watching very closely on how the senate votes on something that goes fundamentally to the issue of who we are as Americans and whether we stand by our heroes," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.

Supporters were finally confident that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act will be approved before the lame duck session ends. The bill would provide medical support to thousands of 9/11 first responders, but it's sparked heated and often bitter debate among lawmakers who said the price tag is simply too high.

"It's one thing to make an emotional appeal, to say we need health care for somebody who did something good. It's another to do it in a sensible way," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)

In a final push, supporters re-worked the bill, scaling it back from $7.4 billion to $6.2, and they've found a new way to pay for it.

"Setting a fee by the federal government on contracts with foreign countries that have not signed a certain procurement agreement with the United States," Gillibrand said.

The bill's best chance at passage comes before a new crop of conservative lawmakers is sworn in. And to add pressure, a group of first reponders will head to Washington this week, including Jon Feal, and urge President Obama to get involved.

"For years I had to fight for my own benefits," Feal said. "I had to sell everything I won to keep a roof over my head."

Mayor Bloomberg was set to hold a press conference Monday morning in support of the bill. The timing's crucial, as the House of Representatives did pass the original version, but would have to vote again if the Senate approves the revised measure.